How to Put Automotive Shoppers in the Fast Lane Toward Purchase

Align your message with receptive buyers at the most effective times throughout the purchase process

The journey to purchasing a vehicle typically starts with research and ends with a few test drives. With automotive shoppers looking to narrow down their options, the research phase presents a massive opportunity for auto dealers to take the lead in the race.

By taking a closer look at how consumers make their automotive purchase decisions, dealership marketers can ensure they’re reaching the right shoppers at the right time.

To help sellers get in the driver’s seat and connect with automotive shoppers, Yahoo surveyed consumers over a three-month period to better understand the path to purchase. We found that timing is critical.

The majority of consumers start their search for a new vehicle within six months of purchase, and 40% of shoppers begin the process three months before deciding to buy. This gives auto dealers a clear window of time to make the most out of their advertising efforts.

We also know that specific search activity is important, but it depends on where a shopper is in the purchase process. Our research found that generic terms, like “buying a new car,” peak three months before purchase, when shoppers are initially looking at the landscape.

Selling terms, like “selling my used car” or “how to sell my car,” however, peak six weeks before purchase, as prospective buyers start to get more serious.

And finally, financial terms, like “car financing” and “auto insurance,” peak one week before purchase, once consumers have narrowed down their choice and are ready to take the leap.

So what do these insights really mean, and how can dealers put them into drive? Here are a few tips to help ensure dealers aren’t getting passed up by their competitors.

  • Take a wide-range view of your search ad strategy. Leverage search ads to engage consumers effectively. If a potential buyer is looking for an SUV, dealers can focus their messages to go beyond that singular search term by expanding to key SUV features like AWD. This will serve to inform consumers and increase engagement, rather than by oversaturating them.
  • Rev up your ad efforts by switching lanes. Because the several stages of the car-buying process can be complex, a diversified media execution plan is critical to effectively target customers. That means implementing multiple strategies. For example, leverage dayparting to segment-messaging, native ads to connect with consumers where they spend the most time, and use an omni-channel demand-side platform (DSP) approach to reach target customers and control ad frequency across screens.
  • Test drive your data. Data can help you reach consumers through various lenses. For example, combine first-party data with third-party sources to boost consumer awareness and effectively lead them through the purchase funnel.

Dealerships have ample opportunity to align their messages with receptive buyers at the most effective times during the purchase process. Ultimately, a well-thought-out, data-driven strategy can help dealers put auto shoppers in the fast lane to purchase.

Brad Piggott is the vice president and industry lead for the automotive category at Yahoo. He brings over two decades of sales experience, spanning digital and traditional mediums, to this role. Previously, Brad was the vice president of platform solutions for North America at BrightRoll.

Brad Piggott


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